04 Jan 2021
Journal of neurosurgical sciences
BACKGROUND: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has greatly disturbed healthcare and the practice of neurosurgery. As healthcare systems evolve in the face of COVID-19, the use of telehealth platforms has expanded. We present the results of a large survey of patient perspectives on the role of telehealth in the care of spine clinic patients. METHODS: All patients at the spine clinic of a large, tertiary, academic medical center were surveyed at their clinic visit from 5/30/20-6/30/20. All responses were anonymous and results were analyzed with standard statistical techniques. RESULTS: 176 surveys were returned and 164 were entirely completed. 56.8% of patients were new while 24.4% were post-operative follow-up visits. 54.9% had lumbar symptoms. 85% had pain while more than half also reported weakness. 58% traveled greater than twenty-five miles for their appointment. 96% had transportation readily available. Of all respondents, only 15.3% preferred the appointment via video telehealth while 4% had no preference between in-person appointment or virtual visit. Preference for telehealth appointment was not associated with factors such as new or established in the practice, spinal region of symptoms, pain, weakness, comfort with technology, age or duration of symptoms. There was a significant difference between how far the patient traveled for the clinic appointment and their preference for a telehealth appointment, with patients traveling further distances favoring telehealth (p=0.04). This effect remained significant when stratifying based on 25 miles (p=0.03) or 50 miles (p=0.03) but not when stratifying based on 100 miles (p=0.32). However, the sample size of patients traveling >100 miles was small, limiting any inference regarding that subgroup. Access to transportation was associated with preference for telehealth (88.89% vs. 97.18%, p=0.08) but did not reach statistical significance. CONCLUSIONS: Most spine patients prefer in-person clinic appointments to virtual appointments. These preferences should be considered when arranging patient encounters.